National Cancer Institute awards additional $14 million to UC Davis-LLNL Cancer Center

Aug. 2, 2005

Suzanne Miyamoto, in her lab at UC Davis Cancer Center, works on a potential screening test for ovarian cancer. (Download Image)

National Cancer Institute awards additional $14 million to UC Davis-LLNL Cancer Center

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The National Cancer Institute, the nation’s top cancer research organization, has renewed its designation of UC Davis Cancer Center for five years. The distinction comes with $14 million in new federal funding through the year 2010 to support the center’s rapidly expanding research program, now comprising 179 scientists at work on 317 cancer projects on three campuses, including the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) campus.

“It’s an outstanding achievement. It’s a tribute to everyone involved,” said Dennis Matthews, director of LLNL’s Center for Biotechnology, Biophysical Sciences and Bioengineering and associate director of the UC Davis Cancer Center. Matthews also leads the UC Davis Cancer Center’s biomedical technology program and directs the Center for Biophotonics at UC Davis.

Said Ralph deVere White, director of the UC Davis Cancer Center: “It’s like winning the Pulitzer twice in a row. It’s enormously gratifying to receive this national recognition of our unique scientific strengths and potential to impact on cancer care at home and worldwide.”

The hard-won renewal follows an exhaustive scientific and administrative evaluation of cancer center programs by a 23-member NCI-appointed review panel made up of directors and scientists from top cancer centers around the country.

California has nine NCI-designated centers. Only two are in Northern California, at UC San Francisco and UC Davis. UC Davis Cancer Center serves the Central Valley and inland Northern California, a region the size of Pennsylvania.

In addition to caring for individual patients, it is the mission and obligation of NCI-designated cancer centers to improve the health of communities. NCI funding has allowed UC Davis Cancer Center to lead a national effort to reduce cancer in Asian Americans. UC Davis researchers will use similar strategies in other ethnic groups, with a goal of making the region the first in the nation to eliminate ethnic disparities in cancer.

The NCI, a component of the National Institutes of Health, was established under the National Cancer Act of 1937 as the federal government's principal agency for cancer research and training. The National Cancer Act of 1971 broadened the scope and responsibilities of the NCI and gave rise to the NCI’s Cancer Centers Program. The program supports 60 NCI-designated cancer centers throughout the United States to sustain broad-based, coordinated, interdisciplinary programs in cancer research.  According to the NCI, designated institutions “are characterized by scientific excellence and capability to integrate a diversity of research approaches to focus on the problem of cancer.”

UC Davis Cancer Center first achieved NCI designation in July 2002. That designation came with a $3.9 million grant over three years. The cancer center’s research partnership with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the first of its kind in the nation, was a key factor in winning the designation. In that partnership, physicians and scientists work to turn technology developed for the defense industry into new cancer therapies, detection methods and prevention strategies.

In addition to its main facility on the UC Davis Medical Center campus, UC Davis Cancer Center has affiliate cancer centers in Merced ( Mercy Cancer Center) and Marysville ( Fremont-Rideout Cancer Center) and an infusion center in Roseville.

The UC Davis Cancer Center research program brings together scientists from 17 schools, divisions and programs on three campuses – the UC Davis Medical Center campus in Sacramento, the main UC Davis campus in Davis and LLNL in Livermore. This blend of institutions and disciplines gives the research program a unique personality and the potential to contribute to the national cancer agenda in important ways.

In Sacramento, the research program draws investigators from the UC Davis School of Medicine as well as the California Department of Health Services and the Center for Biophotonics, Science and Technology, a program of the National Science Foundation. In Davis, it draws scientists from the world-renowned UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and the departments of nutrition, chemistry and biomedical engineering, among others, as well as the USDA Western Human Nutrition Research Center. At Livermore, home of the world’s fastest supercomputer and most powerful laser facility, 40 scientists are actively engaged in cancer research through the UC Davis Cancer Center research program.

UC Davis Health System has invested $90 million in the cancer program over the past 15 years, recruiting 65 new research scientists and building a 52,000-square-foot Cancer Center and 50,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art cancer research facility. A 7,000- square-foot expansion of the Cancer Center’s radiation oncology clinic was recently completed. Another $15 million has been committed for additional new research and clinical space.

Since first gaining NCI designation in 2002, the Cancer Center’s achievements include:

  • increasing funding for cancer research by 48 percent, from $43.5 million to $64.4 million
  • offering more than 350 clinical trials, 41 of them originated by UC Davis Cancer Center physicians
  • recruiting 30 new scientists to the cancer research program
  • adding an associate director for cancer disparities and a director of outreach research and education, to build on cancer awareness, prevention and early detection efforts throughout the region, especially in underserved areas
  • joining the Healthy Yuba County project, to address the cancer mortality rate in Yuba County, which is the highest in the state
  • winning a $5.5 million grant to spearhead a national effort to address cancer disparities affecting Asian Americans

A list of specific research accomplishments is available by request.

The $14 million grant accompanying NCI designation renewal is earmarked for support of cancer center administrative and core research operations, called shared resources, over the next five years. Shared resources provide sophisticated technical services to researchers throughout the cancer program.

Founded in 1952, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has a mission to ensure national security and apply science and technology to the important issues of our time. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is managed by the University of California for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration.